Are Bicycle Pedals Universal?: Know the Facts

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To simply answer: No, bike pedals are not universal. Not only visually or for their different purposes for various cycling disciplines, but also internally. Bicycle pedals mainly have two sizes: 9/16” and ½”. The 9/16” is the more standard version of pedals and covers almost all subtypes.

Are Bicycle Pedals Universal

As you may already know, choosing a bicycle pedal can be quite a feat considering all the choices that are available. Mostly people talk about the pedals available for different biking disciplines, namely road or off-road biking. But there is more to it, and we are not talking about stylistic preferences.

Even within the many cycling disciplines we have many types of pedals available to the cyclists.

Since we will be going deep into the topic of pedal universality, we deemed it best to split up our discussion into sections, starting with the most overlooked:

  • Thread Sizes
  • Pedal Types
    • Flats
    • Clipped
    • Clipless

Universal Features of Bike Pedals

Thread Sizes

People generally overlook the screw thread size of the pedals because of the existence of an almost standard size. That is the 9/16”. While the other, more uncommon, screw thread size is the ½”.

This screw thread is the section of the pedal that directly connects to the bike’s pedal cranks.

Thread sizes

The 9/16” is most common on adult bikes, almost all adult bikes nowadays. So if you own a bike that you have bought recently, or even in the 1990s, chances are that you have a 9/16” pedal thread.

The ½” on the other hand are a bit rarer, but not non-existent. Only some cheap cruiser adult bikes or BMX bike models have them. And they can even be seen in many juvenile (kids) bikes.

➥ Go through our best reviews for BMX bike pedals for your better understanding to decide pedals for your bike.

The reasons for standardization is not a bad thing at all since neither sizes bring any significant advantage over the other. And also since pedals are frequently changed, they need to be standard for both the customers’ and manufacturers comfort.

Points to note:

  • If you happen to own a bike that doesn’t match the screw thread size of your pedals, then no need to worry. Adapters for both 9/16” and 1/2” sizes can be purchased, even on online platforms like Amazon.
  • If your pedals are still not fitting, then there are bike fitters or bike shops that can help you permanently screw in a new thread for your bike. But only if your bike’s crank is made of aluminum. If it is steel however, unfortunately you are probably out of luck. These are rare cases and probably means that your bike is of a really old model.

Pedal Types

The most common distinction we can make among pedals is their type.

If you have ever cycled as a kid, chances are that you have used a flat pedal. But long gone are those days where only flat pedals are the only viable options.

Along with the flats, we have toe-clip pedals and the more recent (if you can call it that since they were first manufactured in the late 80s) clipless pedals.

However, thanks to further innovation in cycling, nowadays we have different pedals for each popular cycling discipline.

Let’s discuss a little bit more about these topics.

1. Platform Pedals or Flats

As mentioned previously, platform or flat pedals are the most common and well known type of pedal out there.

Platform Pedals

It’s simple design is very welcoming to beginners, and many veterans also covet this type of pedal.

Flat pedals nowadays are more than a slab of plastic however. Thanks to pedal innovation, flats are now made with composite materials, alloy of steel and aluminum and even carbon fiber for the premium models.

Their physical design has also seen improvements. These pedals now come with threads to provide extra grip, and you can even adjust them on some models according to the rider’s needs. On top of that, thread patterns are also a thing to optimize grip as well as mud shedding capabilities for MTB enthusiasts.

➥ Do check our best products honest reviews for MTB flat pedals.

These are very robust, lightweight and slip resistant, able to withstand even the harshest cycling conditions.

It is no wonder that these types of pedals are highly coveted among off-road cyclists, especially of the enduro or downhill discipline.

But other than these two disciplines, flat pedals are much more catered towards and prized among the everyday cyclists for a more recreational use.

2. Toe Clip Pedals

These types of pedals are from a bygone era, and are almost non-existent nowadays.

These pedals come with a toe cage that strap over your shoes. This fixes your feet in position on the pedals providing an increase to your pedaling efficiency.

Toe-clip pedals virtually went off the radar completely due to its bulky design and safety concerns.

3. Clipless Pedals

It has almost become like a rite of passage to move on to clipless pedals from flats for any cyclist nowadays.

Clipless pedals

While the name can be confusing as you actually do clip-in to these pedals, it was a choice taken by its first manufacturers to distinguish them from toe-clip pedals. In other words, these are really ‘toe-clipless’ pedals.

From a larger point of view, clipless pedals are a part of a pedaling system which involves the shoes, the cleats and the pedals.

The way it works is that the cycling shoe has mounting points for cleats which in turn clips into the clipless pedal.

This allows your feet to become one with the pedal, which gives off the feeling of security and stability. It also allows your feet to follow a constant pedaling path which greatly contributes to your pedaling efficiency.

Unlike the toe-clip system, your feet are not caged and you can disengage from these pedals easily by simply twisting your feet slightly outward.

Clipless pedals are catered towards a more serious group of cyclists who pursue new challenges or ride competitively.

That said, there are specific features of clipless pedals for different types of cycling disciplines:

Platform SizeSmall to Mid SizedNo Platform or Large Platform
Other FeaturesAerodynamic


Premium. Catered toward competitive cyclists.
Mud Shedding Capabilities

Budget Friendly

All manner of cyclists can utilize them.

Final Words

Differences in bicycle pedals do not end there. There are other questions of texture, material and sizes, all of which can noticeably impact performance and experience of the cyclist.

As you can now very well realize, bike pedals are not really the one dimensional cycling component that many think that they are. In fact, their features are deeper than even many veterans realize thanks to the constant hard work, innovation and passion that the manufacturers and enthusiasts alike put into them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1) What is the Q-Factor for cycling pedals?

Ans.: The Q-Factor is simply the length between the outside of the pedal crank arms. In other words, the width of the crankset.

The larger the Q-Factor of your bike the more space you will have between your feet on the pedals. Generally the Q-factor doesn’t significantly impact your performance (also since this measurement is usually universal), there are exceptional cases where it is adjusted to give the cyclist a performance and comfort edge, especially in the competitive scene.

Q2) What size wrench do I need to change bike pedals?

Ans.: Bicycle pedal wrenches usually come in the 15mm size. These are flatter than your typical spanner to fit onto the small gap between the pedal and the crank.

If you do not have a bike pedal wrench, you can make do with an open ended spanner of 15mm. Bike pedal wrenches can be a bit expensive.

Dion Lewis Author Image

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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